Wednesday: Mass Issues

Let’s bring automatic voter registration (AVR) to Massachusetts. The automatic voter registration bill (S373; H2091) makes two simple, transformative changes: eligible citizens are registered to vote when they interact with government agencies; and agencies transfer voter registration information electronically to election officials. This process is more convenient and less error-prone, and it boosts registration rates, cleans up the rolls, makes voting more convenient, and reduces the potential for voter fraud, all while lowering costs. Currently, only 15% of Massachusetts voting age population isn’t registered. AVR can change that.

AVR is currently before the Joint Committee on Election Laws, with a hearing at 1:00 pm on 6/8 (tomorrow!). You can submit written testimony to the co-chairs, Senator Anne M. Gobi anne.gobi@masenate.gov (S.373), and Representative John J. Mahoney John.Mahoney@mahouse.gov (H.2091). Address your testimony to Honorable Chairmen and Members of the Joint Committee.

It’s time to push for a Paid Family and Medical Leave Act (S1048; H2172) for Massachusetts. 1.2 million workers in Massachusetts risk losing their jobs if they take time off work for a serious illness, a family medical emergency, or a new child. Workers who can’t afford to take unpaid time off are left to choose between taking care of a child they love and keeping their job. Paid family and medical leave will allow all workers to take time to care for health emergencies of their own or a loved one without fear of losing a job or risk of financial ruin.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing before the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development on June 13. You can submit written testimony to the co-chairs, Senator Jason Lewis Jason.Lewis@masenate.gov and Representative Paul Brodeur Paul.Brodeur@mahouse.gov. Address your testimony to Honorable Chairmen and Members of the Joint Committee—and if you, like many of us, have a personal story, be sure to share it.

Thursday: Bring Joy

Among the untold number of men in long-term solitary confinement in Massachusetts today is 27 year-old Andrew. He graduated from high school and entered college, hoping to become a pilot. But poverty, bad luck, and bad decisions conspired to sentence him to a very different future. Eight years ago, as a teenager, he was confined to prison for the next 20 years of his life for an incident which lasted less than five seconds and in which no one was hurt. He was recently sentenced to four years in solitary after already being in solitary for nearly seven months. Currently, he is not allowed any visitation or phone calls, no radio or television. Without human contact he faces the very real possibility of long, slow descent into mental illness. The only contact he is allowed with other human beings is through letters.

Would you consider writing to this young man? He is by nature cheerful, intelligent, and interested in many different topics, including sports, politics, and art. He is a talented artist and is always looking for artwork to cover his bare walls. If you can write to him, please contact Caroline Bays at cjbays@gmail.com.

What brings you joy? Rebecca Solnit writes about Roger Casement, human rights activist and Irish nationalist, who investigated horrific torture and genocide in South America’s Putamayo rain forest and campaigned to end it. “While on this somber task, his journal reveals, he found time to admire handsome local men and to chase brilliantly colored local butterflies. Joy doesn’t betray but sustains activism. And when you face a politics that aspires to make you fearful, alienated, and isolated, joy is a fine initial act of insurrection.” (Hope in the Dark, p. 24). So today, or sometime this week, figure out how we can deal with ugly, scary truths without becoming ugly, scary people. How can we bring light and laughter into our own lives and the lives of those we love? Tell a joke, listen to music, laugh, take a bubble bath. Joy sustains activism!